Saturday, December 29, 2007

So This Is Christmas...

Christmas has come and gone again, but this year it feels a little odd. In a way, I’m still waiting for it to arrive. Hasn’t it felt like there was just no build-up to it this year, it just sort of crept up on us all? This year there just seemed to be less festivity, less carol singing, less anticipation. Or maybe I’m just growing up, something that I thought wasn’t likely to happen in the never-never land we call Hong Kong.

Christmas always makes me feel a little melancholy, too. Not the whole day; just that for a few short minutes in the day for the past two or three years, I’ve reflected on past Christmas’s, and it saddens me, how much it’s changed for me. I’m sure you’re the same – when you’re only little, Christmas is the most magical time of the year. There are presents and mince pies and singing, and everybody seems to be so in love with everybody else. Everything bad that’s happening, all your uncertain circumstances or times of trial, they all get put on hold for the few days that Christmas consumes, and everybody’s high-spirited and happy. Or so it seems, to a small child. Christmas is made for children. I remember year after year, waking up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning and racing into my parents’ bedroom to wake them up and then leaping down the stairs to the living room, to see what Santa had brought.

Sad to say, this year, I woke up on Christmas morning only because my Dad had come through to the living room where I was sleeping (I don’t have a bedroom in my parents house anymore) to use the computer. For a minute, it didn’t even hit me what the occasion was. Thank God for the little boy my parents are fostering, the only person in the house who seemed excited about the whole thing. He came into the living room and kissed me, wished me a merry Christmas and proceeded to rip open his parcels, yelling over them like each one was the best gift he’d ever received. Like I said, Christmas is made for children.

That’s another thing about growing up, when it comes to Christmas. When you’re little, everything you open is like gold. It could be anything from the world’s biggest doll house to a packet of jelly beans, to a child, it’s nothing but exciting. As you get older, not only does your yearly pile of parcels diminish in size, but the gifts get less exhilarating and more useful. That’s not to say we don’t still appreciate the presents, but it’s a different kind of appreciation, isn’t it. It’s less “Oh, this is fun!” more “Oh, this will come in handy”.

But I’m talking like Christmas is all about presents and food now. It’s not. I guess the one great thing about understanding Christmas more from an adult point of view is that you really start to appreciate the true meaning behind it – Jesus. That really struck me this year, singing a carol about shepherds going to visit the new-born King: how awestruck they must have been, looking onto that baby and knowing He had come to save the world. How absolutely speechless that must have left them, and how honored they must have felt to be some of the first human beings to stand in His presence. And that’s what makes Christmas something special every year, without fail, is knowing that we’re really celebrating how great God is, that He wanted to share His Son with us in that manner.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Everybody Wants a Water Buffalo

I feel like I just haven’t been able to breathe lately, there’s been so much going on, and I feel totally over-whelmed by it. I’ve realized something about myself: I find it really, truly difficult to relax and do absolutely nothing. I don’t know how some people can just sit and stare into space and not feel guilty or disturbed; I wish I could do that. But whenever I try, I have to resign myself to the hundreds of chores and to-do’s running through my head and it only results in me feeling more stressed out than before. I think that’s why I like blogging so much. It gives me something to do whilst at the same time releasing stress, rather than creating more for myself; I can relax and stay busy simultaneously. I guess it works in much the same way as journaling for other people, only journaling doesn’t work for me because it starts to feel like a chore and then I end up feeling guilty if I forget or neglect to write in it for a few days. Additionally, blogging and knowing that other people are reading what I write provides a certain release for me.

On Saturday I moved house, and to start with it was a lot of fun. I’ve been working hard making my new house look pretty and it’s been good, a chance to re-organize and throw out everything I no longer use and haven’t seen or missed in the past year. However, everything has a pitfall; in this case, my hands constantly smell of cardboard and there are small pieces of ripped off box littering my entire apartment. And, naturally, there are all the fiddly little things that must be done when moving house, small but hugely significant – informing banks, friends, work places and so on of your change of address, contacting PCCW in order to get them to come out and re-wire up your broadband and phone line (something I have yet to do, mostly because I’m thoroughly dreading trying to communicate my needs to a machine voice on the other end of the line). Paying whopping, great big deposits on the apartment and all the bank-scrounging that comes with that.

And then, just when you think you’ve got everything under control, you decide to take it upon yourself to be a plumber. My kitchen drain was blocked, and so I thought it would be most impressive if I could fix it by myself. I managed to successfully take apart the entire sink (as you do) and clean the drain, only to find that I now can’t put it back together. It’s not just me being incompetent either, I had my dad over this evening to try and fix my mistakes, but he couldn’t fix it and it looks like I’m going to have to call out a (real) plumber this time. At least I can say I’ve tried, though, right?

One of the high points of living in Sai Kung though, I must say, is the constant company of the actually rather friendly water buffalo. Contrary to my former beliefs that they closely resemble bulls, hence having me in a nervous state every time I thought about them lest they started chasing me down the mountain where I live, I’ve discovered that they’re actually pretty awesome. The other night, arriving home at around midnight, I dropped my keys in the car park and bent to pick them up, and as I stood up again I found myself, quite literally, face to face with a huge water buffalo. I had a fleeting idea of petting it and making fast friends with it, Dr. Dolittle style, but scratched that idea pretty quickly for obvious reasons. But as I looked around, I noticed that it wasn’t just one buffalo in the vicinity with me, there were at least 4, just milling around outside with nothing better to do than wait for the next day.

Since that night, I’ve stood on my balcony every evening and waited for them to come up, which they do, without fail. I have a feeling if they were a little smaller and didn’t smell quite so funky, they’d make very loyal pets.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Occasionally, I’ll take some time to stare up into the sky, or across the ocean, or stop in a really busy street and just look around me, and I realize how small I am. The world is so big, so vast, and I am just one person. Right now, there are around 6,602,224,175 people on the earth. Over 6.6 billion people. I can’t even comprehend that number.

Isn’t it crazy to think that of those 6,602,224,175 people, my immediate biological family accounts for the last 5? So if we all died, there would be 6,602,224,170 left. Then again, a woman apparently has a baby every 8 seconds, so within 40 seconds, less than a minute, the number would be back up to 6,602,224,175 and we’d all be replaced. Thinking about that makes me realize how strange it is that one person, as insignificant as they may seem in the great scheme of things, can be so tremendously important – either to a whole country of people, or just to one individual being. Take someone like Mother Teresa, for example. She was just one woman, one seemingly very insignificant person; without her, you’d hardly notice the change in the world population. But she changed the world. Everyone knows who she is.

And what about people you know? Of all the friends you have, all the people you’ve ever met in your entire life, is there a single one of them who hasn’t changed or shaped your life in one way or another, no matter how considerably or otherwise? There are a lot of people I know that shape my life, that change my world, and the way I see it. And if a single one of those friends didn’t exist, it would be a different world for me.

6,602,224,175 people. Yet it only takes one to change the world.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

An Invincible Summer

People seem to question the idea of suffering too much. It doesn’t matter what their beliefs are, what religion or race or gender, people are always asking themselves the reasons for their sufferings. I’m not necessarily saying that it’s a bad thing, and neither am I pointing fingers; I question it too. It’s hard not to, when you’re the one going through the trials and not knowing how you’re ever going to pull through. But at the same time, by paying so much attention to our despair, are we forgetting the good it brings?

Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in quiet and ease. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition aspired, and success achieved.” A blind deaf-mute woman talks to us about our vision clearing. I’m aware that it’s metaphorical vision she’s talking about, but, remarkable, isn’t it? That someone who, it seems, has so many reasons to be miserable can actually have it all figured out. And she’s right, as far as I’m concerned. How mundane would the world and everyone in it be, if everything went perfectly according to plan? Should there even be a plan, a surefire one that’s going to get us through our lives without us having to make one real decision all by ourselves, simply because a Higher Power has already laid it all on the table for us? I don’t think so. I think that as human beings with brains and freewill and goals, we’re permitted and even required to make our own way at times, figure out for ourselves what’s best for us, choose our paths.

If we were never left to struggle, how would we ever discover anything about ourselves or those around us? Because it’s great to know a person when they’re happy and their life is in order, but in my opinion you don’t really know someone until you’ve seen them suffering, and witnessed how they hold up through it. In much the same way, you only know how strong you are when you’ve had to prove it to yourself or to others; people don’t just put on random acts of mental strength unnecessarily. There has to be a reason. And when a reason arises, and you find your inner strength to pull yourself and whoever else is concerned through this particular struggle, then you’ve discovered something about yourself. As French philosopher Albert Camus put it, “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer”.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mounting Pressure

Sometimes, things happen in life that leaves us speechless. And sometimes speechless doesn’t mean having absolutely nothing to say, it can just mean that you have so many thoughts and emotions and feelings pressing into your mind that it’s like a hundred little streams of water all rushing really fast toward a great big gushing river that it’s feeding, except that it’s not just water, it’s full of dirt and debris and it clogs up the paths and manages to create dams at the ends of the little streams so that there’s all this pressure just… pressing against your mind, and you can hear it creaking and groaning in protest and it’s just waiting for that one last, final piece of crap to come and break the dam and then all the words just explode out like a waterfall into the great big rushing river, cascading out from behind whatever was stopping it, and then you can’t stop it anymore no matter how hard you try, because you’re not strong enough to force that amount of water or feeling or emotion back into the little streams. And so it just flows.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

What Are You Laughing At?

I was reading a book the other day that mentioned briefly that no matter how funny you are, there will always be situations where you get shut-down because your audience is all wrong. For example, something that makes a group of teenagers laugh will have an old folks’ home keeling over in shock; something that amuses your little group of friends will only draw blank, curious stares from a roomful of businessmen.

So that got me thinking: why do people laugh? What is it that gives us the uncontrollable desire to burst into hysterics when we hear or see something funny?

According to, laughter is a “spontaneous response to humor that has physiological, psychological and physical benefits”. This is true as far as the benefits it has for us, but it doesn’t really explain what makes people laugh. What is humor?

There’s a book called “Comedy Writing Secrets”, written by Mel Hilitzer with Mark Shatz (what a name), that talks about the element of surprise being one key factor to making people laugh. For example, if you are tricked into doing or believing something inane, you laugh to cover up the fact that you’re embarrassed. Another way this works is in a story in which the audience thinks it can correctly interpret the ending, but are then surprised when the story being told takes an unexpected twist. The audience is surprised; they laugh.

So why is it that sometimes we’re so sadistic and laugh at things that are actually really horrible? I mean, it shouldn’t be funny when someone falls off a chair and hurts himself or you read about some poor individual getting kicked in the teeth by an angry animal of some sort, but you’d be a liar if you said you haven’t laughed at something along those lines. So maybe humor is hostility turned into a joke.

You hear it all the time: comedians making fun of something that is actually a serious issue, or else something that just upsets or angers them. If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you love or at least have seen the Jay Leno show. Most people have seen at least one episode of it, just because you can’t escape it. Personally, I find Jay Leno one of the funniest people in the world. Now, in relation to hostility masked as humor, one thing Leno does quite a lot is make fun of politicians which is something I thoroughly enjoy - mostly because I don’t understand politics at all and so it’s great to hear somebody slaughter them as entirely as he can. “I looked up the word politics in the dictionary, and it’s actually a combination of two words: poli, which means ‘many’, and tics, which means ‘bloodsuckers’.”

Anyway, my point is that different people laugh at so many different things, for so many varying reasons, that you could be the funniest person in the world and still not make certain kinds of people laugh. Some people laugh at cheap jokes, some people laugh at big, comical gags. Some people are tickled by witty remarks, still others laugh at cruel humor. A few people don’t laugh at anything at all, either because they don’t understand hilarity or they think they’re above it in some way. I feel sad for those people, but that’s another story. But whatever makes you laugh and whatever the reasons are for that, I’ve just decided that I need to stop writing about it. It’s like E.B. White said: “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. They both die in the process”.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Fabulous Summer

So I know this is not what I usually do, but I thought that today, I would write and update anyone reading on what I've been up to because I feel like I've been away for a long while and I miss blogging.

My amazing summer really started with my best friend in the whole world, Adriel Clayton, coming home from studying in Toronto; he's the absolute most amazing person in the world and so to have him back made me extraordinarily happy. However, as it turns out, Adriel brought home a lot more happiness than I had planned because we're together now and I honestly believe that I couldn't be happier if you presented me with a lifetime supply of Reeses peanut butter cups, 35 million dollars and a big house in the Maldives. Made of playdough. So whilst I was in Hong Kong with Adriel, as you can probably predict, we were rather glued at the hip.

What made all of this rock even more was that I also did my internship with the Economist in July, while Adriel did his own internship in the hotel next door. My internship was probably the most fun challenge I've ever come across and I had a complete blast - I got the opportunity to write two stories based on meetings I sat in on, phone calls and interviews that I conducted, and research I did. It was awesome to get stuck in with the practicalities of writing and I couldn't have gotten along with the staff more whichmade me really happy.

Then, on August 3rd, I left Hong Kong to go to England for the rest of my summer. Bitter-sweet, owing to the fact that I had to leave before Adriel went back to school, but that's life. I'm staying with my sister, who lives with my Aunt and Uncle, while I'm here in Sproatley, Hull; although I've just spent the weekend in Hastings with old friends which was a blast. Besides the copious amount of shopping I did, we watched the meteor shower (shame on you if you missed it) and did plenty of catching up, enough to cover the last three years of our lives. Monday was spent in London with Janakan visiting London Tower, the London Eye and then Leicester Square with James watching The Simpsons movie. Caught up briefly with Kevin in Chinatown before having to run off to catch a train back to Hull - always interesting when you're travelling alone in a country full of basketcases, it seems.

Anyway so that's been my summer in brief so far! Just thought I'd update you and try to use the last month or so being insanely busy as an excuse for not doing any real writing; hope I pulled it off. I'll be back soon! Have a great remainder of the summer.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Drama, Drama, Drama

Do you know what really bugs me? Television nature programs. They’re all exactly the same, have you ever noticed? They all depict a man or a woman in bad camouflage with war paint on their faces, holding a shaky camera pointed at themselves with various wild animals strolling around in the background. And they all say things like, “Aren’t they the most majestic creatures?” and “You wouldn’t believe it to look at them, but these pint-sized bunnies have been known to swallow daring explorers like me whole, in order to protect their young”. They then proceed to crawl around on their bellies amid these killer bunnies “so as not to pose a threat”.

TV is always much more dramatic than it has to be, though, isn’t it. Whatever type of show it might be, you can bet it’s at least four times as dramatic as anything in real life would ever be. Even by my families standards which, in my opinion, deserve its own soap-opera slot on daytime television.

You get shows like The OC, where everybody’s dated, married or related to everybody else. One Tree Hill, also, is a fantastic example: Haley and Nathan, the 17-year-old pregnant married couple. Nathan’s brother Lucas who flits constantly between Brooke and Peyton who have, by the way, both slept with Nathan too. Lucas has a heart disease; Brooke has her own clothing line; Peyton is, in my opinion, an undiagnosed chronically depressed mess. This is hardly surprising when you consider the facts: two dead moms, an absentee father, a psycho stalker and a secret half-brother. I’m not saying I don’t love the show, but it does prove my point fairly well.

Then you have shows like Oprah and their wildly outrageous stories. “I was born a boy, had a sex change, married this guy and now I’m falling in love with his sister!” Some of the things and people featured on that show leave me feeling fortunate to have a mother and a father who are only married to each other, as well as a dog that I’m not sexually attracted to.

Even the news these days leaves me reeling. Last night I watched as a man sitting in a deck chair was lifted into the air and carried off into the sunset, with the aid of I don’t know how many helium balloons. How much helium would it take, anyway, to lift a fully grown male and his lawn chair that high into the sky? You know what? It’s not even worth thinking about. The fact is, he managed it, and made it onto world news. And that’s what the worlds TV has come to.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Look After Your Teeth - Washington'll Tell You

You’ve probably heard the legend that says that the first president of the United States had wooden teeth, but I hadn’t until this week and I’ve become entirely fascinated by it. He didn’t actually have wooden teeth though; the facts are that George Washington had pretty bad dental health as a young man, starting when he was 22. It is thought that this started because he had poor health and was given mercurous chloride to cure him of various illnesses such as dengue fever, dysentery, malaria, flu and so on. Consequently he lost all of his teeth, whereupon Dr. John Greenwood crafted him two sets of dentures to replace them. Dr. Greenwood was a fantastic doctor in his time and Washington’s teeth were carved from hippopotamus ivory and gold. Don’t ask me why anybody would need teeth made of ivory and gold; I guess when you’re the president and you can, you just do.

Regardless of what they were made of, though, I think these teeth were probably the most uncomfortable things to have in your mouth, ever, because of the extraordinary way they were made. The two sets of dentures were connected with springs, which held the teeth in place by pushing them against the roof of Washington’s mouth. This all sounds like a genius plan until you think about how on earth he ever managed to keep his mouth shut; surely whenever he stopped pressing his teeth together, his mouth would just ping open. I used to play a bit of rugby at school and we had to wear mouth guards to stop all our teeth being knocked out, and I will always remember how incredibly strange it felt to wear it – I felt like every time I opened my mouth, it was going to fall out. In fact, I seem to recall that exact thing happening to a teammate of mine one game when she yelled out for the ball. How uncomfortable for the president, then, having to constantly clamp his jaws together in order to keep his teeth in place!

As it turns out, the president had a horrible time with his teeth his whole life. Apparently he was always at the dentists requesting new, better fitting dentures, complaining that the ones he was wearing at the time were ill-fitting or uncomfortable in some other way. If you look at some of his portraits, his mouth actually does look quite swollen and puffed out. When you think about it, it must have been a terrible thing to have to endure his whole life. I had braces fitted on my teeth for just over a year, I think, and it was the worst 18 months of my life; the only thing that got me through the scraping, tightening and horrible discomfort of it all was knowing that at the end of it all, I would have a much nicer smile. George Washington didn’t even have that – his teeth just got worse and worse as long as he lived. What a terrible thing.

Anyway when Washington died, one set of his teeth was given to a dental university who in turn passed them on to some exhibition or another, where they were stolen. I can think of only two reasons anybody would want to steal a deceased mans false teeth: a) because they were fixated on the president and wanted something to remember him by, or b) because they contained gold and are therefore probably worth a fair sum. I like to think it was the latter, just because the former is more than a little creepy, but that’s beside the point. Either way, someone stole the presidents’ dentures, and they’ve never been found.

Anyway, I really don’t know what my point was now, I can’t seem to recall. I don’t even know how the legend of his supposed wooden teeth came about; if anybody does, please do let me know, I’d be interested to hear it. I’d also be glad to hear from you if you think you might know the whereabouts of George Washington’s teeth. I hear they’re worth a lot.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Why Vegetarianism Makes You Say Questionable Things

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony." -Mahatma Gandhi.

I came across this quote the other day when I was looking on the net for someone intelligent to quote in an article about myself, for another site. When I first read it, I thought, "This is awesome! This is the quote I'm going to use! It sounds so smart!" Then I read it again and realized that I couldn't use it, because I completely disagree with Gandhi right here.

Don't get me wrong, my intentions are not to patronize or disrespect the memory of an undoubtedly extremely wise, intelligent leader. After all, I just read on wikipedia that he was a lawyer and worked his butt off for the liberation of women. He was also a bit of a badass: he led a bunch of people on the disobedience of the salt tax (presumably exactly what it sounds like, a tax on salt), and everybody loves a good guy with a bit of a rebellious streak. But think about it. You watch Prison Break or CSI or any such show - and yes, I realize this is just TV, but it does have some element of truth to it - and most of the murderers and rapists are talking openly about murder and rape, as well as presumably thinking about it and obviously acting on it. So, what they are thinking, saying and doing are in harmony. But show me a rapist that's actually truly happy and I'll show you a fat Gandhi.

While we're on Ghandi, the website that featured this quote made me laugh, too. "View a detailed biography of Mahatma Gandhi" was one link made available to me and, feeling rather in a state of mind to learn something interesting, I clicked on it. And got the following: "Biography:Indian political and spiritual leader; assassinated."
...That's the detailed biography they were referring to?! How about: "He was really hungry", or "He wore glasses"? There, I expanded on it already, and I admit, before I started writing this blog I didn’t really know much about him at all.

But my aim today isn't to prove to you what a lying and conniving thing the internet can sometimes be; I love and rely on it as much as the next person (oh my, doesn’t the internet have a lot in common with men? But we’ll leave that for another day). My point is that sometimes, smart people can be wrong. Take George Bernard Shaw, for instance. He was very clever; he wrote more than sixty plays, one of which won an Oscar in 1938, after winning a Nobel Prize in 1925. However, he once said, “If a woman rebels against high-heeled shoes, she should take care to do it in a very smart hat”. Now, how sexist is that?! Isn’t he basically saying that women should always be wearing either heels or a hat? I appreciate that he lived in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, when this may have been a more acceptable thing to say, but really. There’s Gandhi working his starving bottom off for women’s freedom, and then George comes along and tells us that we shouldn’t take on an attitude about wearing a certain shoe.

Maybe I’m being too hard on him, and all he really wanted was to ensure that we always looked our best. The funny thing is, Shaw was a big supporter of women’s rights. In fact, he and Gandhi had rather a few things in common; they were both vegetarian, to start with. Both were well educated, too, although George Bernard Shaw was rather against all his schools and teachers, believing that schools were not so much a place of learning rather than a jail in which to imprison children every day, with the intention of keeping them out of trouble and out of their parents’ hair.

I don’t know; I think the only person that really gets it, to be honest, is American writer Jack Handey, who said, "If I lived back in the Wild West days, instead of carrying a six-gun in my holster, I'd carry a soldering iron. That way, if some smart-aleck cowboy said something like: 'Hey, look! He's carrying a soldering iron!' and started laughing, and everybody else started laughing, I could just say, 'That's right, it's a soldering iron. The soldering iron of justice.' Then everybody would get real quiet and ashamed, because they had made fun of the soldering iron of justice, and I could probably hit them up for a free drink.”

I just find it very comical that the only man apparently with his head screwed on straight wrote a book called My Big Thick Novel, don't you?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

As Time Goes By

I've just been thinking back over the past twelve months, and I've realized it's amazing how much can happen in such a short time span. This time last year, I was a brand-new high school graduate with now a clue as to what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was just getting ready to start my first full-time job and was actually - imagine this - excited about it, I had plans to go and study theater in Australia, and I was really excited to see how it would all work out.

Well, I haven't been disappointed, that's for certain; this past year has been one little adventure after another. Having said that, almost nothing that's happened since last June was planned in any way, or even suspected. But I suppose that just makes it all the more exciting. Last June I had not an inkling that in a years' time I would be a) working towards a career in journalism and preparing myself for an internship with the Economist, b) renting out my own apartment and living more or less entirely independently, or c) have gone through several relationship fiascos, one major best friend blunder, one slightly less than agreeable flatmate and a few hundred online stalkers (okay, I might be exaggerating a small bit, but you understand).

So yes, I think it's safe to say that this year has been full of surprises, both pleasant and... otherwise. But it just makes you realize how quickly life can pass us by, doesn't it? One day you're a student studying for your IB exams and thinking they're the most intellectually difficult and challenging years of your life; the next, you're working dawn until dusk six days a week to support yourself, you've forgotten the meaning of the term "social life" altogether and you're wondering what on earth you had to complain about all through your secondary education.

Some days I look back and wonder how it's possible that I've lived in Hong Kong for almost ten years already. A decade! Yes, I definetely have the friendships to show for it; but there are still people that I'm just now getting to know, even though they've been there all along. Isn't that terrible? That a person can go nine and a half years and never get to know someone who's been there practically every single day of it? So occasionally I have to ask: How long are we going to sit here and let life just slide quietly by? How many opportunites are we going to let slip through our fingers like sand, and how much more time are we going to spend being thinkers, rather than do-ers?

The way I see it, young as we undoubtedly are, there's so much to see and do in the world that we shouldn't be wasting a second doing anything less than working towards experiencing as much of it as we possibly can. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and see what I can do about discovering a new life-form. Well, you only live once, right?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

What IS She Wearing?

Does anyone else living in Hong Kong, or any other Asian country, find it depressingly difficult to keep up to date with fashion? I mean sure, we have magazines and the internet heroically trying to provide us with some guidelines to follow, but sometimes I find it really hard to believe that people actually wear some of the items they advertise.

I find that when I'm in the UK, I just always find it so much easier to grasp. You're out on the streets and you see people sporting styles and trends you've seen in magazines and you can begin to understand how it works. In Hong Kong, we're just constantly lost! Our only role models, most of the time, are wearing big frilly lolita dresses with matching bonnets or fishnet stockings, ankle boots and "nautical" shirts in cyan and purple. And I'll be damned if that will ever be considered fashionable in Europe.

Of course, it can't be denied that there are some great advantages of living in a foreign country as far as clothes are concerned; we have access to stores and malls that people outside of Asia have never even heard of, meaning that we can return to our home countries the proud owners of clothes that people there have no chance of possessing - ergo, we don't look anything like the rest of the countries' clones, a refreshing thing in todays world. We've also all been given the chance to develop our very own sense of style - of course, this can be a bad thing as much as it can be good. We can own fantastic clothes that no one else has and, when asked, take great pleasure in throwing out lines like, "Oh, this old thing? I picked it up in China / Thailand / India / Zimbabwe, years ago." And it doesn't even have to be the truth because if there's one thing that everyone knows, it's that us Expat Brats get to travel the globe a whole lot more than the Home Dwellers.

So yes, I understand that in some ways, living in a non-European country can work to our advantage tremendously. But that just doesn't change the fact that we have a serious shortage of fashion icons to follow in Asia. A good example would be my sister. Lora lives in England and therefore has access to, and follows religiously, all of the latest high-street trends and fashions. I always think I'm doing a pretty good job of doing the same thing, with the help of UK's monthly Glamour magazine, until I talk to Lora. Comments such as, "You wore WHAT?!" and "That's not exactly been cool here for months now, but I guess where you are, it still is..." are common occurences in our conversations, as are questions from my end like "What the hell are brogues?!" and "Viscose dresses? Never heard of them."

So, what's a girl to do? We can say as much as we like that trends don't matter to us, that we're too cool and sophisticated to care and that we will never again be slaves to fashion, but none of it's true, is it? The fact is that we all want to look amazing, all the time, deny it as we may. Maybe we should all just throw in the labels and opt for matching caps and overalls. Hey, it worked for China, just half a short century ago, who's to say it won't catch on?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

You Got The Job!

I'm sitting on a bus on my way to Wan Chai, to meet with the editor of the Economist magazine. It's pretty exciting for me, Journalism being my absolute dream job. Not too many people get the opportunity to do what they love, day in and day out, for money – except perhaps the mafia, but that's never really taken my fancy. So I'm on my way to meet Tom Leander and, even though it's not, strictly speaking, an interview, it's got me thinking about them.

A good friend of mine was telling me today that he loves job interviews. He's been to a lot of them (that's not to say he makes a habit out of getting fired, I personally think he just has a short attention span), and he claims he has enjoyed most of them immensely. I don't really understand that concept at all. Job interviews, for me, have always come with matching anxiety attacks, and lists of things to worry about – what should I wear, how do I get there, am I wearing too much make up, does my hair look alright, does my voice sound okay?

Let me explain. The last interview I went to, at a children's language center in Admiralty, I had lost my voice the previous day and was only just getting it back. Ergo, my voice resembled that of a trailer trash Mom from Alabama – gravelly, hoarse and two octaves lower than it usually is. This is saying a lot, because I've always been acutely aware that my voice is quite deep for a girls' anyway.

And so this interview found me sitting, chugging peppermint tea from a bottle in between questions and trying to make my voice a little higher-pitched and smoother, which only resulted in me sounding like a cross between a Smurf and a hungry cat and, naturally, my interviewer noticed and asked if everything was okay. "Sure", I replied, and flashed him what I hoped was a winning smile. "Okay", he told me. "It's just that your voice sounds a little funny, and you're moving around a lot in your chair".

Here, I realized I had two options. I could tell him the truth, or I could tell him that this liquid I was practically inhaling was actually a mix of very strong spirits and I was off my face wasted. The truth, I thought. My mother would be so proud.

"I'm really sorry, Mr. Woo. I hope I haven't been behaving too oddly, but I lost my voice yesterday and I've been drinking herbal tea in an effort to try and help myself out, only I've drunk far too much of it and now I'm wondering if it would be okay to use your bathroom". My winning smile earlier must have hit the mark, because he laughed, showed me where the bathroom was and called me two days later to request another interview, this time with his manager.

That wasn't my worst interview, though, not by a long shot. My worst interview was, without a doubt, with an education center in Sha Tin. At the outset, it took me over thirty minutes, 4 phone calls and a couple of harassed-looking customer services people to find the center which was supposed to be located "right near the bank in the mall". I eventually found it two levels above the bank, hidden so far out of sight that I wondered how they ever got any business. My seventeen-year-old self walked into the center, waited a few minutes for the boss to finish his phone call, and was then led into what I had assumed to be a cupboard, where the interview was conducted. And so I found myself sitting in a 50 square foot, windowless room, in a piano bench with a large balding man who had bad breath and who spat when he talked. Nevertheless, I somehow managed to pretend that a) he was hilarious, and b) that I understood his English, and I got the job. I put up with bad pay, inconvenient hours and my boss asking me to lie about my age whilst making highly inappropriate comments during our monthly meetings in "The Cell", as I started to call it, and then I was out.

I have experienced other, less exciting, job interviews, including one where I was told, "We would love for you to come and work for us, but you need to cut your hair". What, I asked. "Long hair is not permitted here", I was told. Looking around, I realized that every single employee had identical boyish haircuts. I'm sorry, I thought. I didn't realize I was applying for a position in a state prison.

At another interview, I was asked if I could teach the violin until the English tutor left two months later. Nowhere on my contract did it even imply that I played violin, but obviously there was a need for me to make it clear, so I informed them, "I don't play". To which they appeared generally shocked and bewildered, as if they had never met anyone who didn't play the violin before.

I've been to my fair share of job interviews at nineteen years old, and whilst not all of them have been terrible, there have been more than enough odd, obscure ones to make up for it, in my opinion. And while they're not the worst things that could happen to a person – after all, you could get stabbed to death by the mafia – I definitely wouldn't put them on my list of Fun Things To Do.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Internet Love

So I have a new tip for everybody that I think, I hope, will help you in some way in your lifetime. I am here to tell you that it is possible to meet a nice guy in a bar. It is possible to meet a nice guy at a party. It is possible to meet a nice guy in a car park, a dentist’s office, maybe even an ER waiting room – but never, never ever be deceived into thinking that you’ve met a good, decent, date-able guy online.

I am a member of, just because once upon a time people actually did that and I never got around to closing down my account. Every once in a while, I get a message or a friend request or a photo comment from some guy thinking he’s It, telling me how hot he thinks I am and how badly do I want it (the answer is almost always not at all, ever, even if you were the last breathing creature on earth)?

Okay now, I’ll be the first to admit, there are plenty of cool people to be met over the internet, as sleazy as it does sound. I’ve met, or gotten to know quite a lot of people over the net and I don’t regret it or discourage it at all. What I do not recommend is accepting a friend request on the basis that he looks good in his photos and then giving him your msn instantly so that you can get to know each other. That’s never a good idea. Have you seen those t-shirts that say “You Looked Hotter on MySpace”? If only I had been more on the ball, I would have thought of those first. Unfortunately for me, I found all this out the hard way – and, regretfully, it took more than once to teach me my lesson.

The first time this happened, it was with a guy who I actually met first in a bar - so, strictly speaking, I didn’t meet him over the internet. Still, I had only met him once and he added me on myspace and I accepted, on the grounds that his profile picture was very flattering; and let’s just say that when I had met him out, my vision had been slightly distorted. So I accepted his friend request and we started messaging each other about 15 trillion times a day, and after a week or so we agreed to meet up and go party together.

Over the following few months, this guy and I got rather too attached, and I found myself spending way too much time with him. Then one night, we were out partying and I discovered my at-the-time boyfriends little secret - a daughter. Consequently, I then proceeded to get utterly inebriated and ended up sleeping at this guys’ house on account of he had to carry me home. I feel that it’s integral to let you all know that nothing, absolutely nothing happened that hadn’t already happened between us, and he’d seen me fairly wasted plenty of times before, and we spent the next day together watching movies and just hanging out and everything was fine. However, after that, he pretty much never spoke to me again. We went out for dinner once, my intention being to try and fathom what had gone wrong, but he shut up like a clam and wouldn’t say a word. So, end of friendship.

My most recent, and probably my favorite so far, internet encounter happened when a guy living in the States sent me a friend request. What the heck, I figured; we’ll probably never meet anyway. So I went ahead and approved his request. Little did I know that after a couple of months of silence, and with me on the verge of deleting him on account of him being a seemingly pointless contact, this guy would message me requesting a meeting. “I’ve just moved to Hong Kong from NYC, you look cute, hit me up sometime and we can chat”. Without really thinking about it, I messaged him back with my MSN address and we started talking.

Now, I realize that this could possibly all be making me sound a bit desperate and weird, talking to random people I meet on the net, so I want to take a moment to assure you all that I am neither desperate nor weird, but I do enjoy meeting random people from faraway places so that I can hear more about the world. Then again, maybe that does make me a little weird, but no matter.

So, Internet Man (who, for the sake of his privacy, will remain nameless) and I started talking, and I found out some pretty cool things about him and vice versa (even if I do say so myself), and then he started talking about taking me out some time. I’ll admit that for a while, I contemplated accepting, but decided to back out at the last minute on account of two things.
It worried me a little that someone could want to take me out on a date without ever having met me in person. For all he knew, I was a lesbian ex-convict waiting to rape and murder him. Come to think of it, for all I knew, he was the rapist and the ex-convict (although less likely a lesbian), so we won’t even go there. When I voiced my concerns to one of my best friends, Adriel, he wisely advised me not to go if I had any qualms about it.

When I asked Internet Man to send me a real photo of him – after all, everyone knows you only put grainy and / or distant shots of yourself up on sites like hi5, because grainy and distant makes Darth Vader look like sex on legs - and then forwarded his picture to my wonderfully yet brutally honest friend Leonard, his response was: “Dear God, where did you pick up that fug?” I’m not gonna lie, that probably made my decision easier and faster to make than the lesbian thing.

I didn’t stand Internet Man up, or anything. I merely told him that I needed more time to consider it, to which he replied, “You’re having second thoughts? Why?! I’ll give you the best sex you ever had”, which only confirmed my misgivings about him and led me to vow never to answer a random hi5 message ever again.

So, ladies and gentlemen, there’s the truth of it. If anyone has actually met a truly date-able person online that didn’t turn out to be a sex-starved maniac or worse, please let me know, I would love to hear about them. I have heard of people meeting their wives and girlfriends and so on, on sites like myspace and facebook, I just don’t know how much I believe them. The way I see it, based on my own experiences, it’s just not going to happen.

I guess it’s time to delete that hi5 account now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Human Beings: The Most Complex Creatures on the Planet?

Isn’t it funny what we, as human beings, do to amuse ourselves and entertain ourselves as this thing we call Life happens? I mean, I know people say it all the time, but we must be really complex beings.

Just look at us – we’re not happy just to live and breathe and blink and swallow and do all the other remarkable things our bodies can do. We’re not happy just to be. No, we have to have education and careers, spouses and children, hobbies, interests, talents and skills, friends, enemies, pets, clubs, music, sport… I could go on forever. I could, but I won’t. And it’s got to the point now where it’s not enough for us to have different things to occupy us; now we’re training animals and hunting down human “freaks” to perform for us.

Granted, there are some people who can sit for hours and be entertained by absolutely nothing. I, among many others, watch Oprah Winfrey every day religiously, for example. Another fine example would a good friend of mine who, as multifaceted as he is, comes up with startlingly absurd games such as the one he plays with his friend involving two entirely unrelated words and Wikipedia.

“So...we'll both be sitting in front of our computers on and one person says one really random word and the other says a completely unrelated one - take ‘salmon’ and ‘communism’ for example - and the aim of the game is to start off at ‘salmon’ on Wikipedia and click on the blue words on each page that link you to another page, and find your way to ‘communism’.”

You get my point.

I just think it’s fascinating how creatures as wondrously made as we are can be so simple-minded. Take it in likeness to a graphical calculator. These calculators have the ability to do outrageously difficult sums, plot charts and solve simultaneous equations faster and more accurately than Albert Einstein probably could, yet they can still be, and are, used to work out things like how many 5’s go into 15. Of course, this may be down to how remarkably uneducated humans can behave, but you get the idea.

I have a new flatmate (which makes him sound much like a new pet, only I would never call my rabbit Jamie and this one happens to be a male person), and it amazes me what mundane conversations and tasks can keep us both occupied for hours at times. Today, for example, we sat and talked about the price of ice cream for about ten minutes – it doesn’t sound a long time, but you give it a try, and you’ll see. About a week ago, I watched as Jamie sat and stared at a picture of, and talked about, the new iPod for at least twenty minutes. We sit and stare at a particular lightbulb for hours, arguing over who’s job it should be to buy a new one and who will install it (for safety’s sake, anything electrical should be Jamie’s responsibility, every time), or who’s turn it is to go grocery shopping, or Spaghetti Junction aka the corner of the room where all our wires coagulate.

Anyway, it’s time for me to go and do something productive. I can’t decide which one sounds more exciting, to be honest - hitting a tennis ball against a wall, or rearranging my sock drawer.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sex, Drugs and Thai Green Curry

Recently, I have been in incredibly good spirits. This might not seem like such a big deal to those of you who don’t know me so well, or haven’t been around me a lot lately, but believe me, it’s a huge deal.

I am currently working as an English teacher, and all week long I am around small screaming children who, it is true, are sometimes really sweet and they make me smile a lot, but sometimes they get under my skin like you wouldn’t believe.

I have a boss who I don’t get along with at all. In fact, “don’t get along with" is a huge improvement on the truth of the matter.

Until just a short while ago, I was feeling sad, angry, depressed, irate and unmotivated. But the thing is, work-wise, there’s not a whole lot that’s changed. I still teach screaming children, and I still want to stick an unsterilized needle into my boss’s eye. So why do I suddenly feel surprisingly light hearted?

One cause, I believe, is the drugs that are being pumped through my air conditioning and my water supply. All the time I am sitting in my apartment watching a movie, or writing articles for myspace, or doing whatever else it is that seems to make time pass so quickly, I am actually inhaling drugs, in the form of smoke, that my neighbors or possibly Janakan has been feeding through my air con vent.

You think I’m joking. I’m actually incredibly serious. If you ask Jackie, who helped me to move into my apartment in December last year, she will confirm that we found quite a lot of atypical paraphernalia scattered around the apartment, some of which puzzled us enormously – basket upon basket of fishing wire, hundreds of Hello Kitty fridge magnets and several little plastic action figures littering the window sills were the least of my worries. It was when I started unearthing things like sterilized glasses in the freezer containing long-frozen powder and plastic hospital gloves, a chiller drawer packed with various suspicious-looking herbs and other such concoctions, and metal trays that looked like they belonged in a meth lab that I started to really worry. Not to mention the mini-shrine in the kitchen and the little slips of paper which I later discovered to be the Chinese form of exorcism.

So you see, suspecting that my apartment is being supplied with “smoke satiated drugs”, as Janakan sagaciously put it, might not be as far from the truth as some of you may have previously believed.

Of course, it could be something a lot more customary that has put the smile back onto my face. Meeting with people my age group on Wednesday evenings, spending Sunday afternoons playing Mafia and other such entertaining games, and being around more good-looking and intelligent people than I’ve been around in a while could all be playing a huge part in my existing state of bliss. It could also be that my beautiful and charming friend has offered to come around tomorrow and cook Thai green curry, one of my favorite dishes in the world; needless to say, I’m exceedingly excited to sample his cooking.

Now, if any of you read Janakan’s space, you’ll know that he suspects that my present delight at life is to do with the possibility of me falling in love, or enjoying “threesomes with inanimate objects such as (my) bed and mattress*”. I neither confirm nor deny either of these allegations, but I do encourage you to post a comment and let me know what your opinions are on why Hayley has been feeling on top of the world lately.

*"JAN i was cleaning my apartment today and i ended up sandwiched between my mattress and my actual bed. i was trying to move it around and i took the mattress off and propped it against the wall and then i bent over to lift my bed so i could sweep underneath, and i must have nudged the mattress behind me or something with my foot because it cascaded down on top of me and i was squashed. including the time i just lied there laughing, it took me about 6 minutes to get out. do you realise how much money i could earn if i had caught that on video??"

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Great Search: Hong Kong's Most Eligible Bachelor

Hey everybody! Okay, so they say there are plenty of fish in the sea, but as my good and very intelligent friend Stephanie Manson pointed out to me a couple of weeks ago, the ocean tends to be very, very polluted and nobody ever mentions THAT to you, do they. So here it is - a record of my findings as I have attempted to seek out HK's most eligible bachelor.

I feel I should explain a little what this is all about. Basically, it's just me being sick to death of meeting guys who make you think they're fabulous and then revealing a month or two down the line that they're really not. Since summer 2006 this has happened to me… 4 times. Each male has either turned out to be emotionally unavailable, harboring rather deeply disturbing skeletons in their closets, or a chauvinistic moron. Since I seem to have such bad luck with the male species, I've decided to make light of it and turn it about into a bit of a laugh for everybody to enjoy. Plus, this way everybody can read it and I don't have to repeat my in-depth and sometimes startlingly mundane stories four or five times a day in order for my friends to keep up to date on my current relationship (or lack of) status.

Everybody these days seems to go about meeting new guys by going partying, drinking, clubbing, and picking lots of guys up, hooking up with them, giving them your number and then never hearing from them again. I've tried and tested that method and I came to the conclusion that it SUCKS, it doesn't work, so I moved onto other methods. If I was looking for a one-night stand with a member of the HK rugby team, a bar or club might be an excellent setting to do it in. Similarly, if my search was called the, I don't know, say, "Search for HK's SEEMINGLY Most Eligible Bachelor Who Actually Already Has Children To Another Woman", this might be a good way to go about it. But who wants that? SO.

First of all, I logged onto and, just for laughs, ran a search for single men in Hong Kong between the ages of 19 and 25, looking to date women. It came up with hundreds of options. 479 to be exact. And so, faithful that I am, I went through each and every one, looking for one that might be somewhat dateable – to no avail, evidently, because I'm still single and have no dates set up between now and forever. There were short men, tall men, fat men, skinny men and muscular men. Chinese men, Korean men, Japanese, Black and Caucasian. Butchers, bakers, candle-stick makers, literally crowds of men. I also came across a couple of 13 year old girls that had put that they were 23 year old males looking for women to date, I assume just for gags, otherwise they have some serious complexes they need to see a therapist about, sharp-ish. But my soulmate, people, is still nowhere to be found. Oh well, better luck next time.

I came across a new website shortly after that, a link that a long-lost friend had sent me – Worth a try, thought I, so I filled in all the necessary information, plus answering some additional questions that I did wonder about – my bra size, for one. I submitted my form, uploaded a picture, and waited. Within three minutes I had received two invitations to join a married couple and a lesbian couple for sex, and only then did I realize I had not joined the clean – the website I had somehow been redirected to was Links to various porn sites are still popping up sporadically all over my screen. Conundrum!

Needless to say, I ended my search there for the day. Call me weak, I just felt I couldn't deal with any more penis appearing on my screen. So, I will continue my search if and when I get some time and I will keep you all posted, mostly because it's a therapeutical outlet for me if I'm honest :).